When you think of the word "hope," it probably conjures up light and fluffy thoughts. Hope is generally considered to be a good thing, a feeling that people generally like to feel. The dictionary defines hope as, "to desire with expectation of obtainment." The key with hope is that the outcome is somewhat expected though not guaranteed. There is doubt, and the doubt is what makes hope so addictive.
Gambling is the ultimate example of hope addiction. The people who sit in front of slot machines for hours on end are stuck on the hope that the next pull will yield a better result than the previous. They all know that there's a possibility, and a pretty good one, that the next pull will result in no payout at all. But it's the hope that there will be a payout that keeps them going. Every small payout eggs them on. Look, it's possible to win so I know it can happen. How often do you see someone win big in a casino and them gamble away the winnings? It's not the gambling itself that they can't break away from, it's the hope of a payout.
Hope and disappointment are closely related. The definition of disappoint is "to fail to meet the expectation or hope of." When you hope for something and don't get it, you're disappointed. Someone singing in a karaoke bar to have fun is not disappointed; the same person singing in front of a talent agent may be disappointed because of the hope of being signed. It's the same activity, just different circumstances. The difference is the hope attached to the latter situation makes disappointment a more real possibility.
Hope can get us through tough times, as many prisoners of war can attest, but when hope is left alone without even a hint as to the outcome, it transforms into another state. This state is uncomfortable and is a balancing act between hope and disappointment called doubt.
Doubt isn't quite the opposite of hope though it's close. Doubt supposes that the expected result might not occur, and the anxiety caused by bouncing back and forth between hope and doubt is what I call angst (though this is not the book definition). You're really hoping that something happens but you're starting to believe it probably won't. The possibilities swirl in your head...all the reasons it could happen...all the reasons it might not. The longer you wait for a result, the worse you feel.
One of the precepts of Buddhism is that suffering is caused by attachment: attachment to things, attachment to people, attachment to outcomes. Attachment to outcomes is closely related to hope. Hoping for a particular outcome and not getting it leads to disappointment, and disappointment is a feeling of suffering. If you can release attachment, so they say, you will not experience suffering.
Following that theory, you experience less suffering if you have no hope. I know it sounds kind of grim, but hear me out. If hope leads to disappointment and disappointment is suffering, then stopping hope means stopping suffering; it's simple logic. Without hope, there is also is no angst. Since angst is hope plus doubt, removing hope simply leaves doubt, and doubt alone is not nearly as disturbing as angst.
In my world, hope is reserved for things over which you have no control. If you have a tumor, you hope it's benign, and yes, you even hope that the Patriots win the Super Bowl. You should not hope to get a raise, you should work to get it; you should not hope to have plans Saturday night, you should make it happen.
When I want something, I don't hope for it, expecting it to magically appear just because I want it; I do everything in my power to get it. If I fail, I fail knowing that there was nothing else I could do. There is something comforting about knowing that you gave it your all even if the desired result wasn't achieved.
Like most feelings, hope is neither good nor bad, it just is. The proper application of hope can galvanize efforts while the improper use can lead to complacency and suffering. I think it's an important distinction to make: is this something I should hope for or is this something I should work for?